The Graduate School's Royster Society of Fellows attracts exceptionally talented graduate students from around the world to programs across the campus.

Learn more about the newest five-year fellows within the Royster Society – the life experiences that shaped them and the reasons they chose Carolina.

Brian Adam, Mathematics

  • Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Fellowship
  • University of Georgia, bachelor's degrees in mathematics and in biology

Out of all of the academic institutions you were considering for your doctoral studies, why did you select UNC-Chapel Hill?

I really liked the area and the math department faculty. Additionally, there are some interesting research opportunities here at the intersection of applied mathematics and biology, and visiting during the recruitment weekend, the current graduate students seemed to have a great sense of community and satisfaction with the graduate program at UNC.

How did your opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows contribute to your decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill?

I'd say it was the deciding factor. Without the Royster Fellowship, I would have been unable to choose between UNC and one or two other schools. The unique interdisciplinary community and professional development programs afforded by the Royster Society became a big influence in my final decision.

Please describe your most meaningful undergraduate experience, including why the experience was meaningful.

Research! I worked in a biochemistry lab studying enzyme structure and function. It gave me that first taste of treading into the unknown, conducting an experiment and not being sure what would happen.

Please describe a particularly meaningful experience or accomplishment in your life, including why the experience was meaningful.

I’d say it was one class in particular that got me hooked on math; but more importantly, it taught me how to work. Until that point, I was a clever kid who coasted through school by doing as little as it took to get an A in a course. Then I encountered the aforementioned class where I literally couldn't get a B unless I gave it my all. That first exposure to the demanding rigor of mathematical proofs and their unexpected beauty was both a shock to my system and an addicting fascination. I’ve applied the work ethic and dedication gleaned from that class ever since.

Katy Ascanio, Economics

  • William Neal Reynolds Fellowship
  • Temple University, bachelor of business administration degree in economics

Out of all of the academic institutions you were considering for your doctoral studies, why did you select UNC-Chapel Hill?

The economics department at UNC-Chapel Hill has a large presence of excellent economists conducting research in applied microeconomics, which is the field I plan to pursue. Additionally, the department has a track record of impressive job placements, which was vital in my decision.

How did your opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows contribute to your decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill?

The acceptance into the Royster Society of Fellows contributed hugely in my decision to attend UNC. The opportunity to participate in an interdisciplinary society enticed me greatly because of its uniqueness from all of the schools I was deciding between.

Please describe your most meaningful undergraduate experience, including why the experience was meaningful.

My most meaningful undergraduate experience was conducting and presenting research alongside an excellent labor economist and professor at Temple. This was pivotal in my decision to attend graduate school immediately following my undergraduate career. I always felt that I wanted to pursue my doctorate, and this experience affirmed my goal to have a career in research.

Please describe a particularly meaningful experience or accomplishment in your life, including why the experience was meaningful.

Throughout college I volunteered as a mentor in the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program of Southeastern Pennsylvania in a North Philadelphian elementary school. Spending time on a weekly basis with my “little sister” in her school allowed me to observe an urban, low-socioeconomic educational experience radically different from the elementary school I attended. Hearing her reflections on topics such as school, money and family granted me a new perspective that I could not have gained without this one-on-one interaction.

Casey Berger, Physics

  • William Neal Reynolds Fellowship
  • Ohio State University, bachelor's degree in physics (summa cum laude, with research distinction in physics)
  • Boston University, bachelor's degrees in film and television production and in philosophy (both summa cum laude)

Out of all of the academic institutions you were considering for your doctoral studies, why did you select UNC-Chapel Hill?

I participated in the Computational Astronomy and Physics REU [Research Experiences for Undergraduates] last summer and developed an excellent working relationship with my adviser there. It was a good fit, both in terms of research interests and the culture of his group, and I knew I would be able to be happy, successful and productive here.

How did your opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows contribute to your decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill?

I am very interested in interdisciplinary work, and having the opportunities to connect with my peers in other fields and with alumni was a large contributing factor.

Please describe your most meaningful undergraduate experience, including why the experience was meaningful.

For two years, I was the co-chair of Ohio State’s Society for Women in Physics. Through that role and my previous involvement in the group, I both learned and taught, mentored younger students and was in turn supported and encouraged by older students, and developed a set of skills and a vocabulary that will be useful to me in graduate school and beyond. It was meaningful to be a part of a group that works so hard to improve the status of women in physics, from academic discussions on gender bias to practical and emotional support from other women in the field.

Please describe a particularly meaningful experience or accomplishment in your life, including why the experience was meaningful.

The most meaningful accomplishment in my professional life is the success I have found in the field of physics. I returned to school three years ago after working as an assistant in Hollywood for two years and enrolled in a heavy course of physics and math courses despite having taken no science or math since high school seven years prior. It means so much to have succeeded my highest expectations for myself after a daunting career change, culminating (for now, at least) with receiving the Royster Fellowship at UNC and receiving one of only 11 fellowships awarded nationally through the Department of Energy's Computational Science Graduate Fellowship.

Emily Brennan, Communication studies

  • Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Fellowship
  • University of Central Florida, master's degree in English (rhetoric and composition)
  • Emory University, bachelor's degree in religion (highest honors), with a minor in sociology
  • Oxford College of Emory University, associate's degree

Out of all of the academic institutions you were considering for your doctoral studies, why did you select UNC-Chapel Hill?

UNC-Chapel Hill was at the top of my list when I was exploring doctoral programs because of the strength of the communication studies program and the caliber of the faculty in the department. As I moved through the admission process, I ended up being impressed not only by the reputation of the program but also by my interactions with faculty and students. It was important for me to find a Ph.D. program that would allow me to be part of an engaged, collaborative community of scholars. Ultimately, I chose Chapel Hill because the communication studies program exemplifies such a community.

How did your opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows contribute to your decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill?

Being invited to join the interdisciplinary community of the Royster Society of Fellows was the final push I needed to choose Chapel Hill for my doctoral studies. I am particularly excited that the Royster Society affords its members the opportunity to work with and learn from students from other fields. The generous financial support offered by the Royster Fellowship also influenced my decision, as it will allow me to focus fully on my studies for the next five years.

Please describe your most meaningful undergraduate experience, including why the experience was meaningful.

During my sophomore year at Oxford College of Emory University, I enrolled in an English class that focused on the memoir. This course was special because it met off campus; it was remarkable because it met off campus in Atlanta’s Metro State Prison. A dozen Emory students traveled to Metro each week to attend class with a dozen incarcerated women. While I don't remember much about the memoirs we read that semester, I do know that I learned more in that course than I have in any other. It was during this semester that I began to see the American prison system as a social problem. It was also during this semester that I witnessed the work of academics from across the university who were trying to alleviate this social problem. This class, and the broader work and advocacy of the Emory prison teaching community, was my first experience with public intellectualism.

Please describe a particularly meaningful experience or accomplishment in your life, including why the experience was meaningful.

As an undergraduate, I spent six months studying abroad in Jerusalem. I credit my status as an outsider – and therefore a more careful observer – in Israel as incredibly influential in developing my academic interest in public memory. One moment in particular stands out. I visited Yad Vashem, Israel’s national institute for Holocaust memory, several times during my semester in Jerusalem. Yad Vashem’s history museum is designed so that visitors must walk the entire narrative of the Holocaust, from exhibits on pre-war Jewish life through documentation of liberation and rebuilding, without skipping any part of the exhibit hall. Visitors then exit the building onto a platform that overlooks the city of Jerusalem. I remember standing on that platform with my architecture class and hearing the professor say something along the lines of, “They did this on purpose. There’s a reason you see Jerusalem after you walk through the Holocaust.” This moment came to mind again as I was beginning my master’s thesis, and the construction of Holocaust memory at Yad Vashem ultimately served as the focus of my research.

Natalie Ernecoff, Health policy and management

  • William Neal Reynolds Fellowship
  • University of Pittsburgh, master of public health degree and bachelor's degree in neuroscience and history and philosophy of science

Out of all of the academic institutions you were considering for your doctoral studies, why did you select UNC-Chapel Hill?

UNC offers exceptional research projects, faculty and coursework. Combined with the Royster offer, UNC seemed the best choice.

How did your opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows contribute to your decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill?

The opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows highly influenced my decision to attend UNC. I received competitive offers at other strong schools of public health, and the Royster provided additional access to leadership and collaboration opportunities.

Please describe your most meaningful undergraduate experience, including why the experience was meaningful.

My research working in end-of-life care at the University of Pittsburgh shaped much of the way I conceptualize my research and academic career. I saw patients and their families at vulnerable times, and the psychological and emotional complexity helped me define both what I want to study and how I want to study it.

Please describe a particularly meaningful experience or accomplishment in your life, including why the experience was meaningful.

I recently had a first author publication accepted that was meaningful for several reasons. I selected the topic during data collection for a large-scale project, and I helped collect the data. I then managed the analysis and wrote as first author on the paper. The experience was valuable because the process took several years, and I had the opportunity to see all stages of a project, analysis and manuscript development for one idea.

Madeline Giefer, Geography

  • Chancellor's Fellowship
  • University of Minnesota, bachelor's degree in environmental sciences, policy and management

Out of all of the academic institutions you were considering for your doctoral studies, why did you select UNC-Chapel Hill?

I was first drawn toward UNC because I enjoy the American Southeast. Soon I realized the school would be a good match when I read about the environmentally focused work in the geography department. Later on when I spoke with my prospective adviser, I was taken in by his research projects in China and his genuine interest in my success as an academic.

How did your opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows contribute to your decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill?

The fellowship provides an opportunity to make professional connections that may greatly benefit my career. It also provides a level of financial security that will help me stay focused on my studies.

Please describe your most meaningful undergraduate experience, including why the experience was meaningful.

Last year I designed and conducted a research project on agricultural politics in Minnesota. I interviewed farmers and state legislators who spoke passionately about farming and the environment, and I was surprised to hear that nearly all the interviewees considered themselves environmentalists, but had very different understandings regarding matters of environmental science and rational choice. This led to an unexpected suggestion that the supposed conflict between agricultural and environmental interests may be more factual and less dogmatic than some observers assume.

Please describe a particularly meaningful experience or accomplishment in your life, including why the experience was meaningful.

A few years ago I decided to learn Chinese. My reasons were rather flimsy (they involved a catchy folk song and a desire to write in artsy characters), but for whatever reason, I was committed to learning that language. I spent the following summer studying Chinese 10 hours a day, wondering how I could possibly keep up while juggling my other responsibilities. Two days in, I was terribly frustrated, sleep-deprived and convinced I had made a mistake. But for the rest of the summer I spent all morning in class and all evening studying and somehow managed to ace my language courses. After a few weeks I was able to form a few coherent sentences, which my Chinese housemates found adorable; they smiled (and chuckled) as they helped me practice, and I had a boost of motivation to continue studying Chinese until I passed the proficiency exam a year later. Receiving a "high pass" on each category of that exam was the most hard-earned accomplishment of my life so far. I had forced myself to acquire a skill in which I had minimal natural talent, which required sacrificing a great deal of sleep and nearly all leisure time for a year. Even though there were many late nights I wished I had pursued any other field instead, I am grateful for the support and motivation I had to follow through. I am still far from fluent in Chinese, but I'm improving, and every botched sentence is a reminder that any amount of frustration can be overcome with enough diligence.

Jennifer Gilbert, Nutrition

  • Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Fellowship
  • University of Pennsylvania, bachelor's degree

Out of all of the academic institutions you were considering for your doctoral studies, why did you select UNC-Chapel Hill?

I chose UNC because I was most excited about the research opportunities available here. I was also greatly impressed by the collaborative academic community at UNC, and I felt that I would have access to a wide variety of training experiences.

How did your opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows contribute to your decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill?

The opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows was a huge bonus for me! I decided to attend UNC before I had the chance to join the Royster Society of Fellows, so learning of this opportunity for additional guidance and funding only heightened my excitement to join the UNC community.

Please describe your most meaningful undergraduate experience, including why the experience was meaningful.

Out of all my academic and research experiences as an undergraduate, the time I spent conducting research with Harvey Grill, Ph.D., was most meaningful. It was my first significant research experience, and the first research I did related to food and eating behavior. I learned so much about research methods, behavioral neuroscience and the camaraderie that comes from doing research.

Please describe a particularly meaningful experience or accomplishment in your life, including why the experience was meaningful.

One recent experience that stands out as a meaningful was the final few weeks working as a research coordinator for Michael Lowe, Ph.D. In my two years as a research coordinator, I took on many different roles in the lab, and jumped from task to task as needed. It wasn’t until the last few weeks that I had time to reflect on everything I had done in the lab. I feel proud to have contributed to the success of a couple large grant-funded studies and many other research projects.

Patrick Golden, Information and library science

  • William Neal Reynolds Fellowship
  • University of California, Berkeley, bachelor's degree in history

Out of all of the academic institutions you were considering for your doctoral studies, why did you select UNC-Chapel Hill?

I have been working towards a MS in information science for the previous two years. In that time, I found the faculty and students in the School of Information and Library Science to be welcoming and intellectually stimulating. Staying for longer in the doctoral program was an easy decision.

How did your opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows contribute to your decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill?

It was a pleasant surprise that cemented my decision to continue my studies. I look forward to meeting the other fellows!

Please describe your most meaningful undergraduate experience, including why the experience was meaningful.

I served as a research assistant to the Emma Goldman Papers Project, a documentary editing project focused on collecting and annotating the work of Emma Goldman, a prominent American anarchist. In this time, I gained firsthand experience with how a large historical research project is undertaken. My work continues to focus on how such humanities research can be aided by computer systems.

Please describe a particularly meaningful experience or accomplishment in your life, including why the experience was meaningful.

As an undergraduate, I wrote a thesis on the imprisonment of conscientious objectors in the United States during World War I. I was fortunate to receive a small grant to travel to pertinent archives in Swarthmore College and the Library of Congress. During that time, I saw the incredible value of our memorial institutions and became interested in their increased exposure and accessibility.

Allison Gose, History

  • Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Fellowship
  • University of Tennessee, Knoxville, bachelor's degrees in history and political science with a minor in religious studies

Out of all of the academic institutions you were considering for your doctoral studies, why did you select UNC-Chapel Hill?

At UNC-Chapel Hill, I knew I would be welcomed into a collection of communities. Not only did UNC have the largest community of graduate students within my specific field among the institutions I considered but it offered the opportunity to engage in wider, interdisciplinary communities through the Royster Society of Fellows. I believed these connections would enhance my doctoral experience both as a scholar and as an individual, as I made UNC-Chapel Hill my new home.

How did your opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows contribute to your decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill?

The opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows significantly contributed to my decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill. Through this fellowship, I knew I would find a diverse community of scholars, passionate about their own research but also deeply interested in interdisciplinary thinking and its benefits to the work in all academic fields. I believed this opportunity would challenge me and help me grow as a scholar, equipped with the knowledge and tools not only to value interdisciplinary methodology and strategies but also apply it both in my own teaching and research.

Please describe your most meaningful undergraduate experience, including why the experience was meaningful.

For most of my undergraduate career, I intended to attend law school. Despite my lifelong love of history, I never found that special spark in a specific field. However, in the junior year of my undergraduate education, I decided to fulfill a departmental requirement and enrolled in an early medieval course. There, I discovered that spark that had been missing, and my mind was awakened to a whole new set of possibilities for my future. I spent the remainder of my undergraduate career following that pivotal moment preparing myself for graduate school. Through conducting research, learning languages and connecting with other professionals in my field, I could no longer imagine any other career.

Please describe a particularly meaningful experience or accomplishment in your life, including why the experience was meaningful.

As a person with a disability, I have long battled against the stigmas and expectations about what an individual with my condition can achieve. Since elementary school, I have been repeatedly told that I should not strive to excel. Refusing to accept the limitations imposed on me by others, I became valedictorian of my high school class, lived independently in campus housing at the university where I would ultimately graduate with a 4.0, and was accepted as a graduate student at one of the top programs in my discipline. These experiences all prepared me for what I hope to be my most meaningful accomplishment – successfully continuing my academic and professional life at UNC-Chapel Hill as a Royster Society Fellow.

Lea Greenberg, German studies

  • William R. Kenan Jr. Fellowship
  • Grinnell College, bachelor's degree in German (concentration in Russian, Central and East European studies)

Out of all of the academic institutions you were considering for your doctoral studies, why did you select UNC-Chapel Hill?

I chose UNC because the Carolina-Duke Graduate Program in German Studies offers the support of two outstanding institutions in the field. I could not pass up the opportunity to work with this combined group of scholars and to have the support and resources of both universities.

How did your opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows contribute to your decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill?

I was, of course, honored to be admitted into the Royster Society of Fellows, but I also looked forward to having a network of academic support right when I arrive at UNC. I was encouraged by the mentorship that the organization can provide, as well as the opportunity to share ideas in an interdisciplinary environment. We are today becoming increasingly aware of the interdisciplinary nature of education – and the need to incorporate interdisciplinary methods of research and teaching into our work – so the forum that the Royster provides seemed invaluable to me.

Please describe your most meaningful undergraduate experience, including why the experience was meaningful.

My most meaningful undergraduate experience has been in my experiences with research, particularly abroad. For my capstone research paper (on Stefan Zweig and the construction of Jewish identity in turn-of-the-century Vienna) during my senior year as an undergraduate at Grinnell College, my school generously funded me to research in libraries and archives in Vienna. This opportunity heightened my passion for the field and allowed me to enrich the content of my work.

Please describe a particularly meaningful experience or accomplishment in your life, including why the experience was meaningful.

A very meaningful, and very recent, experience was my year as an English teaching assistant through the Fulbright Fellowship during this past year. From August 2014 until July 2015, I had the privilege to live and teach in Berlin at a gymnasium (academic track high school). Through this experience, I discovered how much I truly enjoy teaching, which helps me better to understand how I may shape my professional trajectory. I now know that, in addition to my love for the field of German-Jewish studies and for the processes of writing and research, I look forward also to working with students and actively disseminating knowledge. In addition to my own professional development as a teaching assistant, I also formed strong friendships and grew personally during my time in Berlin.

Katharine Henry, English

  • Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Fellowship
  • California State University, Los Angeles, master's degree in English
  • University of California, Berkeley, bachelor's degrees in English and political science

Out of all of the academic institutions you were considering for your doctoral studies, why did you select UNC-Chapel Hill?

The English literature Ph.D. program at UNC-Chapel Hill ranks among the nation’s top doctoral programs and maintains an impressive placement record, strong indicators that I can be a competitive candidate in the academic job market. During my campus visit, my enthusiasm for Chapel Hill swelled with its vast library collections, the cradle for interdisciplinary research that lies at the core of my desire to pursue doctoral study.

How did your opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows contribute to your decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill?

The Royster Society of Fellows' generous financial support for my doctoral study and commitment to interdisciplinary engagement and mentorship were major factors motivating my decision to study at UNC-Chapel Hill. With the support of the Royster community, I saw myself blossoming as a critical thinker and future professional through dialogue with Royster scholars and faculty from a variety of disciplines.

Please describe your most meaningful undergraduate experience, including why the experience was meaningful.

In my last year of undergraduate study, I crafted an independent research project. With the encouragement and guidance of my faculty adviser, I explored the discursive relationship between disability and animality across two centuries of visual cultural production. In this project, I recognized how research was an invitation for my personal curiosities and hobbies, such as my love of film, to become an intellectual project. I immersed myself in a truly interdisciplinary experience as I utilized the close-reading, analytical skill set of my literary studies to read visual arts texts.

Please describe a particularly meaningful experience or accomplishment in your life, including why the experience was meaningful.

After completing my master's program, I joined the Ernest J. Gaines Center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette as a summer research fellow. Uncovering and transcribing archival materials gave me insight into how Gaines’ narratives, such as The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, developed over several drafts. Browsing through archival manuscripts, including handwritten early drafts of novels and speeches, illuminated my grasp of the conflicts underlying his novels and ability to make critical connections across his oeuvre. I had the incredible honor to meet Mr. Gaines while reading and studying his novels. It was most moving to meet him and Mrs. Gaines at their home and to walk the paths where he grew up near New Roads, La. His great respect for whom he calls “the old people,” the community elders whose stories he grew up listening to in the quarters, manifested itself in his novels and also in his life as he preserves the community cemetery where his ancestors are buried.

Sehrish Javaid, Oral biology

  • Chancellor's Fellowship
  • University of Minnesota, master's degree in oral biology (Fulbright Scholarship from 2010-12)
  • de'Montmorency College of Dentistry (Lahore, Pakistan), bachelor's degree in dentistry

Out of all of the academic institutions you were considering for your doctoral studies, why did you select UNC-Chapel Hill?

The UNC-CH School of Dentistry is well known for its research; in particular, I was attracted by the research they were conducting to understand the mechanism of cancer, as it is my main area of interest.

How did your opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows contribute to your decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill?

It played a significant role in helping me decide to settle on UNC-CH. I looked up on “Google” and learned that the Royster Society of Fellows provided its fellows with leadership and outreach opportunity as a part of learning. The alumni were working at established institutions. Of course, the financial aspect was attractive, as well. I would say in addition to the reputation of the school and a chance to work on cancers for my research, the award of the Royster Society of Fellows fellowship was a huge factor in helping me select UNC-CH.

Please describe your most meaningful undergraduate experience, including why the experience was meaningful.

My most meaningful experience came during my master’s. I had to present a poster based on my research in an event. I was exhausted, working ‘round the clock to meet the deadline. During the event, I explained my research on melanoma to a number of guests. One guest told me his son is a melanoma survivor. Before leaving, he said, "Thank you for all your hard work,” and I was super elated. I felt rejuvenated and his words gave me the strength to work even harder in the future for playing my role in finding the cure of this disease.

Please describe a particularly meaningful experience or accomplishment in your life, including why the experience was meaningful.

The most meaningful accomplishment of my life was to receive the Fulbright Scholarship for master’s study in the U.S.A. Studying in the U.S.A. introduced me to new world of possibilities and I was able to learn new research techniques. I made new friends and enjoyed the living-abroad experience. As a part of the scholarship, I had to return to my home country and share my experience. I initiated a research project in collaboration with another institution to break the ice.

Nick Jones, Pharmaceutical sciences

  • Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Fellowship
  • Ohio State University, Pharm.D. degree
  • Loyola University Chicago, bachelor's degree in chemistry (honors degree)

Out of all of the academic institutions you were considering for your doctoral studies, why did you select UNC-Chapel Hill?

Best-developed program. Geographic area which seems appropriate for living for several years or long term. Ability to develop prior skills and knowledge while advancing research initiative.

How did your opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows contribute to your decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill?

Provided an additional community of scholars for networking and learning opportunities.

Please describe your most meaningful undergraduate experience, including why the experience was meaningful.

In Chicago, I enjoyed my time working with a chemical company called Regis Technologies. I believe this experience was instrumental in my understanding the impact of science and industrialization on society today. Additionally, I was inspired by an excellent managing style and the opportunity to investigate some intriguing questions at the small company.

Please describe a particularly meaningful experience or accomplishment in your life, including why the experience was meaningful.

I started a research initiative with a children's hospital while in pharmacy school. Because I sought out this opportunity by collaborating with experts across different disciplines, I feel some degree of accomplishment through the fact that I created my own opportunity where none existed before.

Joanna Lawson, Philosophy

  • Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Fellowship
  • Oxford University, master's degree
  • Grove City College, bachelor's degree

Out of all of the academic institutions you were considering for your doctoral studies, why did you select UNC-Chapel Hill?

The philosophy community at UNC was welcoming, the professors were kind and eager to discuss ideas and the Chapel Hill area is beautiful. Also, philosophy tends to be a male-dominated field, so I was very impressed with UNC's very diverse graduate population.

How did your opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows contribute to your decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill?

As the graduate stipend at UNC was less impressive than any of the other offers I received, the Royster Fellowship made it much easier for me to justify joining the UNC community. Also, I very much value being able to get to know people from other academic disciplines, so the prospect of being able to make new friends through Royster meant a lot to me.

Please describe your most meaningful undergraduate experience, including why the experience was meaningful.

My favorite experience during undergrad was volunteering with Club 21, a weekly social for over-21-year-old people with mental disabilities. Basically, it was two hours every Friday evening where we’d do crafts and have dance parties with the participants. I've never had so much fun dancing (except at my wedding, but that’s another story). Besides the obvious benefit of being able to color and boogie on a weekly basis, the experience taught me that people are people, no matter who they are or whether they have Down’s syndrome. They have dreams, disappointments and crushes. They have beliefs about what is just and whether or not there’s a God. They get tattoos, get married. Their parents pass away and they grieve. They work at jobs and get frustrated with their bosses.

Please describe a particularly meaningful experience or accomplishment in your life, including why the experience was meaningful.

After I graduated high school, I spent a year in Quito, Ecuador teaching English at an elementary school. I had no business being in a classroom. I was 18, awkward and shy. I had zero classroom-management skills. I’d never taught anything before, and I certainly wasn’t prepared to create curricula for students. Odd as it may sound, the experience was especially meaningful to me because it taught me how to fail. I am now 26 and still awkward, though slightly less shy. I’ve never been a doctoral student before. But even if everything goes terribly, horribly wrong, it probably won’t end with a horde of unruly 7-year-olds shouting at me in Spanish. And if it does happen, I know I can probably handle even that.

Khoa D. Le Nguyen, Psychology

  • Chancellor's Fellowship
  • College of Wooster, bachelor's degree in psychology

Out of all of the academic institutions you were considering for your doctoral studies, why did you select UNC-Chapel Hill?

There are so many things that I love about the psychology department at UNC: its excellent quantitative psychology program, its track record in attracting research funding, its flexible and light program that emphasizes research instead of examination and testing, etc. But what really set UNC apart for me are the people. My adviser, Barb Fredrickson, seems to live the good and loving life that she preaches. Other professors and students are just as brilliant, stimulating, friendly, genuine and supportive. I often felt exhausted and hoped to return home after graduate school visits. UNC is the one exception where I really wished to stay longer.

How did your opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows contribute to your decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill?

I’d already decided to attend UNC before learning that I've received the prestigious Royster Fellowship. Being able to join the Royster Society of Fellows and surround myself with extraordinary individuals made my decision even more rewarding. As someone who values diverse intellectual experience and interdisciplinary collaboration, I look forward to meeting, learning from and potentially working with other fellows both in and outside of my field.

Please describe your most meaningful undergraduate experience, including why the experience was meaningful.

I wish I could relive my service trip with other classmates to West Virginia in my sophomore year. A flood took place near Hampden right before we arrived. During the day, we worked hard to help the locals salvage their houses and belongings that covered in debris and mud. At night, we cooked, played games, talked and reflected on our experience together. This was one of the happiest times in my life; I felt a deep sense of joy, meaning, purpose and connectedness to people around me, if not to all human beings. Experiences like this inspire my research interests in topics such as empathy, prosocial behavior and positive emotions.

Please describe a particularly meaningful experience or accomplishment in your life, including why the experience was meaningful.

After graduating from college, I moved to Philadelphia and started volunteering for the World Well-Being Project (WWBP) at University of Pennsylvania. The project involved working with data of hundreds of thousands participants and was very heavy on programming. I started with little knowledge of R programming and big data, but with lots of determination. The learning process was slow and often frustrating, but the high of successfully solving an analytical or programming problem made up for it. After several months, I became quite comfortable with R and WWBP’s databases. Besides my main research project at WWBP, I was even recruited to analyze data and become an author for other papers. Although this accomplishment is not that significant, it helps me appreciate the central force of effort and patience in creating success.

Michael Little, Education

  • William R. Kenan Jr. Fellowship
  • UNC-Chapel Hill, bachelor's degree in public policy analysis (with honors and distinction) and in political science

Out of all of the academic institutions you were considering for your doctoral studies, why did you select UNC-Chapel Hill?

I have lived in Chapel Hill since graduating in 2013 and absolutely love it here. I have maintained relationships with faculty from my undergraduate studies and developed a close connection with my adviser, Dr. Lora Cohen-Vogel. This close relationship helped assure me that Chapel Hill was the right place to be. Additionally, the Royster Fellowship made the funding level highly competitive with other select schools of education, such as Stanford and Vanderbilt.

How did your opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows contribute to your decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill?

When I learned that I was invited to join the Royster Society of Fellows, I knew immediately that I would accept. My preference was to stay in Chapel Hill and to avoid moving across the country and burdening my spouse with finding a new job. However, without the secure and generous funding that the Royster Fellowship provides, the decision would not have been easy. Many of the other schools I considered were positioned to commit stable and generous funding throughout the program. This fellowship put UNC on equal footing and made it possible for me to stay in my home, Chapel Hill.

Please describe your most meaningful undergraduate experience, including why the experience was meaningful.

Writing an honors thesis for the Department of Public Policy's Honors Program was likely the most important experience I had as an undergraduate. The process served as a culmination of my undergraduate coursework and provided me with the opportunity to work closely with a member of the faculty. It is during this experience that I realized I wanted to do this kind of work for the rest of my career. I could lose myself for hours writing code in Stata and creating interesting and helpful graphics to represent my findings. It is through this experience that I knew I was a researcher.

Please describe a particularly meaningful experience or accomplishment in your life, including why the experience was meaningful.

During my sophomore year of college, I participated in the Literacy Corps, a component of the Americorps. During this experience, I taught at-risk kindergarteners literacy skills. While I have always been interested in education as a policy area, it was not until my year of service that I knew I wanted to commit my life to it. The injustice of the academic achievement gap, present even before children enter formal schooling, is unacceptable to me. Over five years later, I am still committed to this cause. I intend to focus my research agenda on improving school quality in the early grades, with a focus on transitions to elementary school and increasing teacher effectiveness.

Luis Enrique Maldonado, Nutrition

  • William R. Kenan Jr. Fellowship
  • Yale University, master of public health in chronic disease epidemiology
  • University of Southern California, bachelor's degree in health promotion and disease prevention studies and a minor in sociology

Out of all of the academic institutions you were considering for your doctoral studies, why did you select UNC-Chapel Hill?

The faculty members in the Department of Nutrition at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health do not only have similar research interests to mine, but also receive substantial funding, provide endless research opportunities both domestically and abroad, constantly accomplish high research productivity, and strongly demonstrate unwavering academic and social support. Other academic institutions seemed to lack one or more of these attributes, not to mention that UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of Nutrition was recently ranked among the top departments of nutrition in the country by the National Research Council.

How did your opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows contribute to your decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill?

The excellent funding provided by the Royster Fellowship was definitely influential in my decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill. Additionally, the interdisciplinary focus of the fellowship was of high interest to me, especially since public health is considerably multifaceted.

Please describe your most meaningful undergraduate experience, including why the experience was meaningful.

During a summer internship, I administered a survey focusing on the overall health of immigrant Latinos in Los Angeles. I had the privilege to meet many participants and hear their stories. Learning their impediments to accessing health care, healthy foods and other resources in order to live a rightful, healthy life was heart-wrenching, especially considering that my own parents had to face similar hurdles. These experiences, along with my background, inspired me to focus my academic career on health disparities, particularly among Latinos, both domestically and abroad.

Please describe a particularly meaningful experience or accomplishment in your life, including why the experience was meaningful.

Having been able to receive the Gates Millennium Scholarship (GMS) as a senior in high school was a life-changing experience. Coming from a low-income family, I did not have the means to pay for college, but GMS assisted me in bridging that financing gap and allowed me to attend any college of my choosing for up to five years, regardless of cost. They also assisted me with paying my master’s program. Without GMS, I may have not considered attending a top-tier university, given my family’s financial hardships. Now, I invest time in volunteering and mentoring students with similar backgrounds to mine in an effort to increase the number and retention of underrepresented minorities in higher education and beyond.

Nathan Markiewitz, Psychology

  • Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Fellowship
  • Vanderbilt University, bachelor's degrees in cognitive science and English

Out of all of the academic institutions you were considering for your doctoral studies, why did you select UNC-Chapel Hill?

I came to UNC-Chapel Hill for the world-class faculty. While performing cutting-edge research, they also prioritize diversity, collaboration and their students’ professional development. Attending UNC-Chapel Hill affords me the opportunity to learn how they do it all.

How did your opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows contribute to your decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill?

The most significant conversations I’ve had are interdisciplinary. It’s amazing what happens when people trained in different fields tackle the same problem. In settings that range from service to teaching, the Royster Society of Fellows creates those moments. It was impossible to turn down.

Please describe your most meaningful undergraduate experience, including why the experience was meaningful.

While establishing Vanderbilt’s first public art organization, I had the opportunity to combine my passion for data visualization with art and advocacy. Our project STAT used T-shirts to represent the prevalence of mental illness on campus. Hundreds of students, many of whom as allies, wore shirts designed in conjunction with our Psychological and Counseling Center. That day sparked conversation – making our peers feel more comfortable sharing their experiences. Professionals commented that they could not remember a time when the campus felt as supportive. I’m grateful that psychology, specifically quantitative psychology, can inform the building of inclusive communities.

Please describe a particularly meaningful experience or accomplishment in your life, including why the experience was meaningful.

Writing Vanderbilt’s first undergraduate thesis on quantitative psychology taught me a lot. It led me to read the original research on the methods I extrapolated. A command of statistical software came from running and interpreting simulation studies. Defending and presenting my thesis pushed me to understand exactly what I did and why. The experience ultimately humbled me. There’s so much more I have to learn, and I’m thankful I get to do that at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Kelsey Martin, Art history

  • Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Fellowship
  • University of New Mexico, master's degree in art history and minor in women studies
  • University of Colorado Boulder, bachelor's degree in sociology

Out of all of the academic institutions you were considering for your doctoral studies, why did you select UNC-Chapel Hill?

Though I was interested in many academic institutions for my doctoral studies, I considered UNC-Chapel Hill my top choice for several reasons. First and foremost was my desire to work with Dr. Mary Sheriff – a scholar whose work I have admired and utilized throughout my academic career. Dr. Sheriff’s multidisciplinary approach to 18th- and 19th-century French art and culture, and particularly her interest in issues of sexuality and gender, will offer me the kind of guidance I seek for my work. I was able to speak with many of the UNC-Chapel Hill art department’s graduate students with research interests similar to my own and felt confident that I would have the resources and opportunities for travel and research. In addition, I felt my academic and professional experiences in art history and women studies were most congruent with the UNC-Chapel Hill art department’s areas of research and teaching emphases in critical theories of representation, cultural interchange and gender.

How did your opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows contribute to your decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill?

As a graduate student at the University of New Mexico, I was very active in several student organizations and “extra-curricular” activities. When there was a lack of opportunities or avenues to explore my multidisciplinary endeavors, I created them by founding new student organizations with other graduate students who desired the same opportunities. I also spent much of my time applying for travel funds in order to broaden my academic experiences through international travel/research and conference participation. My decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill was contingent on the ability to continue this involvement as a Ph.D. student. The opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows absolutely contributed to my decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill. I’m very excited to work with other Fellows who are similarly passionate about their multidisciplinary research and involvement in the university, and to have support from the university to expand my academic endeavors.

Please describe your most meaningful undergraduate experience, including why the experience was meaningful.

Many of my most meaningful undergraduate experiences related to my victim advocacy work at local non-profit organizations and the police department, not my academic endeavors. However, my most meaningful academic experience as a master’s student at UNM was establishing the Feminist Student Scholars and the subsequent Feminist Student Scholars conference. I, along with two other graduate students participating in feminist methodologies, wanted a platform to foster multidisciplinary communication at UNM. Before Feminist Student Scholars, there was no graduate student organization for multidisciplinary feminist scholars on our campus, or a platform for a feminist conference. Our mission was to form inter-departmental solidarity between students (both undergraduate and graduate), faculty and staff in order to share and thereby develop academic, intellectual and political research that celebrated diversity in academia, multiple forms of research and creative scholarly endeavors. We held a one-day, four-panel conference at the university featuring presenters, panel moderators and keynote speakers from a range of academic departments, schools and UNM-affiliated organizations. It was incredibly rewarding to see scholars from different positions in their careers come together and share their scholarship, promote communication between university entities and develop professional skills. One particularly interesting panel, titled Bridging the Gap: Feminist Studies and the Evolutionary Sciences, brought together three graduate students from a variety of disciplines to discuss the conflict between feminists and evolutionary scientists. The panelists collaborated in a well-informed and critical conversation that, to my knowledge, has rarely occurred in an academic setting.

Please describe a particularly meaningful experience or accomplishment in your life, including why the experience was meaningful.

I moved to Albuquerque, N.M., in the summer of 2011. That September, I received a position to teach an after-school sexual education and “risk prevention” program to local middle-school students. This was a low-paying, high-turnover job, and I absolutely loved it. My students – many who were referred to the program based on low grades, low attendance, or by their school counselor due to a variety of individual issues or home environments – were some of the most insightful and open young people I have ever met. Though some of my students flourished in middle school, many others struggled with bullying, peer pressure and low self-esteem. We had the opportunity to send a group of students to the New Mexico State Capitol (in Santa Fe) in the spring of 2013 to advocate for their right to sexual education and after-school programming. Some of my students participated in a song/dance performance while others read individual letters to New Mexico state representatives in the capitol building. Seeing some of my students who struggled the most feel valued and have their voices heard in our state capitol was incredibly rewarding for both my students and myself. Many of my students, ranging in age from 10- to 14-years old, had never been outside of Albuquerque. Their positive energy and excitement on the bus ride home was something I’ll never forget.

Amanda Danielle Moehlenpah, Romance languages and literatures

  • Joseph E. Pogue Fellowship
  • Saint Louis University, master's degree in French
  • Lindenwood University, bachelor's degrees in American studies and in French (studied in France at the Université de Caen Basse-Normandie, participating in the national DELF program for international students)

Out of all of the academic institutions you were considering for your doctoral studies, why did you select UNC-Chapel Hill?

While contemplating which university to attend for doctoral studies, two principal considerations persuaded me as to the merits of UNC-Chapel Hill. First, I esteemed the opportunity to work closely with faculty members nationally renowned for their research in my chosen field of study. Particularly, I was delighted to learn that French faculty member Dr. Ellen Welch was completing a project on 18th-century dance – the precise subject that I wished to study as a doctoral student and which few other scholars in universities worldwide are currently examining. Not only was I impressed by the innovative research, diverse connections and scholarly expertise of faculty members; I was also delighted by the hospitable, encouraging and amicable environment in which these researchers worked and studied. I was grateful to be given the opportunity to immerse myself in such an environment and benefit fully from this scholarly community at UNC-Chapel Hill. Second, I found the area surrounding the university to be as welcoming to students as the university itself; cultural diversity, environmental awareness, artistic exploration and academic resources abound in the Raleigh-Durham area, creating a living community that fosters personal growth and individuality. The commixture of urban innovation and historic elegance and tradition in Chapel Hill strongly appealed to me as such an environment would reinforce and enhance my scholarly apprenticeship.

How did your opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows contribute to your decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill?

What perhaps appealed to me most concerning the Royster Society of Fellows was the unique community of interdisciplinary scholarship that is fostered by both student and faculty contributions. I esteemed the opportunity to work with colleagues across several departments, to glean from their research and to engage in academic conversations that would spur my own intellectual pursuits. I also appreciated the opportunity to teach alongside colleagues and to communicate – together – our passions and research to younger students. Although I will be given similar opportunities within my own department, the Royster Society will enhance and enlarge the possibilities of scholarly interaction at the University of North Carolina, and I am eager to benefit from this occasion.

Please describe your most meaningful undergraduate experience, including why the experience was meaningful.

Two opportunities during my undergraduate studies particularly formed my interests and encouraged further academic pursuits. The first was a partnership with the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis, Mo. Working with both native speakers and students such as myself, I helped to develop a catalogue in French for a recent gallery installation at the Foundation and led interpretive visits of the exhibit for local high school French students. It was a tremendous linguistic, cultural and community experience and encouraged me to approach language and research in a creative, communicative way. Another such experience which combined artistic mediums, research and innovative communication was a film I produced documenting the historic evolution of the English country dance, Sir Roger de Coverly. High school and college students from the St. Louis area demonstrated various variations of the dance for the filming; I then narrated the documentary for an academic audience at Lindenwood University’s interdisciplinary Sibley Day celebration. Both of these opportunities encouraged me to unite artistry, scholarly research and educational communication: a pattern that has formed my doctoral aspirations and will continue to guide my academic career.

Please describe a particularly meaningful experience or accomplishment in your life, including why the experience was meaningful.

One of the most significant experiences of my life occurred last year (2014) when I had the opportunity to teach English to refugee women, most of them from Iraq and Afghanistan. I felt very blessed to be given the opportunity to teach these women to read, some for the first time in their lives, and to know that I was enabling them to create a better life for themselves and for their children. But these women also taught me by inviting me to their homes, serving me traditional foods, explaining their culture and introducing me to their families. They taught me the values of community, the subtleties of courage and the beauty of humanity. Students are individuals with individual hopes, dreams, fears and aspirations, and as a teacher, I have the unique privilege to seek out and foster these individual characteristics. This opportunity humbles me but also urges me to continue with my work and research. Any task I undertake is amply rewarded by the experience of contributing to and bettering the lives of students such as these refugees.

Christina Na, Chemistry

  • Chancellor's Fellowship
  • University of Michigan, bachelor's degree in chemistry

Out of all of the academic institutions you were considering for your doctoral studies, why did you select UNC-Chapel Hill?

UNC-Chapel Hill’s strong chemistry program attracted me to the school. After reading through descriptions of its various research areas, I found several projects in total synthesis and photoredox catalysis that were highly relevant to my own interests and resonated strongly with me. During my visit, I was favorably impressed by the campus and atmosphere, in addition to the research at Carolina.

How did your opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows contribute to your decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill?

The offer to join the Royster Society of Fellows did influence my decision to accept my admission to UNC-Chapel Hill. The benefits and resources provided with the fellowship were attractive, and I felt that such an opportunity would result in a unique experience unavailable with any other graduate school. In addition, I appreciated the financial support that would grant me freedom and flexibility, for example, in the choosing of a lab and in focusing on my research. It truly was a great honor.

Please describe your most meaningful undergraduate experience, including why the experience was meaningful.

My years in the research laboratory was by far my most meaningful undergraduate experience. I gained skills essential for conducting research, but more importantly, I encountered the reality and complexity of science – obstacles arise and results aren’t produced as cleanly as the textbooks make it out to be. I enjoyed the challenge of solving problems in order to pursue answers. Altogether, it was an intellectually rewarding experience that confirmed my desire to pursue chemistry at the graduate level.

Please describe a particularly meaningful experience or accomplishment in your life, including why the experience was meaningful.

I participated in a service project the summer after my eighth grade in which I helped paint the houses of different people. One couple that stood out in particular was an elderly woman and her husband who was in his early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The woman explained that it would only be a matter of years before he would lose his memory. It was my first time personally encountering anyone with an incurable disease, and the gravity of the situation made a deep impact on me. The experience catalyzed my desire to provide cures for such diseases. I chose to pursue my goal through chemistry by developing techniques for efficient and cost-effective syntheses and providing the methods for the creation of novel treatments.

Sarah Reifeis, Biostatistics

  • Chancellor's Fellowship
  • Indiana University-Bloomington, bachelor's degree in mathematics

Out of all of the academic institutions you were considering for your doctoral studies, why did you select UNC-Chapel Hill?

The prestige of the Gillings School of Global Public Health and the Department of Biostatistics initially drew me to apply to UNC-Chapel Hill, and the student recruitment weekend sealed the deal for me. During my visit, I gained a good sense of the program and I was able to become more familiar with the faculty, staff and current students in the department. They were kind and charismatic. They made me feel welcome at UNC-Chapel Hill and as if I could truly belong to the Department of Biostatistics and the University. I feel like I can thrive here, and I'm looking forward to starting this new adventure.

How did your opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows contribute to your decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill?

The opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows greatly impacted my decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill. It is an attractive prospect to be not only a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill and the Department of Biostatistics communities, but the Royster community as well. The interdisciplinary nature of the Royster Society excites me, and I am eager to become a part of a group so diverse in thought and interest. After researching the Royster Society and becoming familiar with the types of events and programs the fellows are involved with, it became clear to me that I greatly desired to be a member of this society. I am humbled and honored that the UNC-Chapel Hill faculty chose me to receive this fellowship, and I believe that I will enjoy and benefit tremendously from my involvement with the Royster Society.

Please describe your most meaningful undergraduate experience, including why the experience was meaningful.

I had many meaningful experiences at Indiana University as an undergraduate, but among the most influential was teaching as an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant (UTA). I was a UTA for four semesters, twice for an introductory biology course and twice for an upper level genetics course. In addition to solidifying my knowledge of biology and making several great friends, my experiences as a UTA taught me many important things. Firstly, I learned that it’s one thing to know a subject and it’s another thing entirely to know a subject well enough to teach it. Secondly, teaching brought me out of my comfort zone and it allowed me to improve upon my communication skills and build a new kind of self-confidence. Finally, one of the most rewarding aspects of my time as a UTA was seeing that I could make a difference in students’ lives. Watching the light bulb turn on in a student’s head after explaining a concept to them gives an irreplaceable satisfaction.

Please describe a particularly meaningful experience or accomplishment in your life, including why the experience was meaningful.

In my time at Indiana University I have had the opportunity to travel with the Office of Underwater Science on multiple academic scuba diving trips. In May 2015, I embarked to the Dominican Republic on my final IU scuba trip with 28 other students and faculty members. Our mission was to dive several shipwrecks in the area and perform site maintenance and data collection in order to assess the health and stability of the reefs and the wrecks. This experience was particularly meaningful to me because I was able to contribute to an ongoing project focused on developing sustainable tourism in the Dominican Republic and conserving precious archaeological and biological resources. The trip was very labor-intensive and I learned many practical skills such as how to build and install buoys, collect data underwater, and generally how much work it takes to successfully run a program like this one. Accomplishing these things while also improving my scuba skills and experiencing the beauty of the underwater world was immensely enjoyable and rewarding. Scuba diving is truly an unparalleled experience, and I feel very fortunate to have worked with several good, talented people on a project that combined my sense of adventure with my desire to positively contribute to the world.

Suzanne Setti, Materials science

  • Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Fellowship
  • New College of Florida, bachelor's degree in chemistry

Out of all of the academic institutions you were considering for your doctoral studies, why did you select UNC-Chapel Hill?

I found the professors and students open about their work and willing to collaborate with others, which I feel is much more conducive to good research than schools with a competitive atmosphere.

How did your opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows contribute to your decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill?

I definitely felt that the additional opportunities, such as networking with students and faculty from other disciplines and being provided with additional outlets to interact with and serve the UNC community, would be beneficial to my graduate career.

Please describe your most meaningful undergraduate experience, including why the experience was meaningful.

Working on an honors thesis during my final year of undergraduate study was my most fruitful learning experience. While I had done smaller research projects before, this was the first time I had ever worked on a project for an entire year. During this time I did novel research, wrote up and defended my thesis, and presented my work at several conferences. What I learned during this time solidified my desire to do research and these experiences will certainly be valuable for when I work on my dissertation.

Please describe a particularly meaningful experience or accomplishment in your life, including why the experience was meaningful.

During the past two years I mentored students at a Title 1 middle school. By sharing my college experiences and love of science with the students through hands-on experiments, I aimed to get them interested in school and pursuing higher education, as well as taught them about the opportunities that college creates. After one event in particular, a student said that he never thought that attending college was a possibility for him, but now that’s what he wants to do. Knowing that my efforts helped create a newfound interest in learning for these students was extremely rewarding.

Karen Setty, Environmental sciences and engineering

  • Chancellor's Fellowship
  • University of California, Santa Barbara, master's degree in environmental science and management (specializing in water resources management)
  • University of Dayton, bachelor's degree in environmental biology

Out of all of the academic institutions you were considering for your doctoral studies, why did you select UNC-Chapel Hill?

The program at UNC-Chapel Hill stood out for me as a strong and long-running public health school with a wide variety of faculty involvement in water and sanitation issues.

How did your opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows contribute to your decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill?

As a working family, we were only able to facilitate my return to school if I received some kind of support. I feel very fortunate that the Royster Fellowship offered me the financial flexibility to be able to choose a path forward for my graduate studies.

Please describe your most meaningful undergraduate experience, including why the experience was meaningful.

I participated in varsity athletics my first couple years at the University of Dayton and didn't really get to experience the social justice focus of their undergraduate program until my junior and senior year. I was able to participate in a semester exchange program with Chaminade University in Honolulu, Hawaii, and a May Breakout Trip to La Chinantla, Mexico with students from Ohio, Texas and Hawaii. Both of these experiences really opened my eyes to the cultural and social diversity around me.

Please describe a particularly meaningful experience or accomplishment in your life, including why the experience was meaningful.

While on a service trip to Araypallpa, Peru with Engineers Without Borders, I was able to respond in a meaningful and honest way to questions from a group of concerned citizens from a small mountain town. I felt accomplished both for being able to communicate in a second language and for helping to address some very real fears about how the drinking water supply affected their families. It imprinted in my mind the importance of both accurate science and science communication.

Sarah Treves-Kagan, Health behavior

  • William R. Kenan Jr. Fellowship
  • University of California, Berkeley, master's degree in public health (maternal and child health)
  • University of Michigan, bachelor's degree in anthropology and political science

Out of all of the academic institutions you were considering for your doctoral studies, why did you select UNC-Chapel Hill?

UNC-Chapel Hill offered the complete package! At UNC I will have the opportunity to not only work with leaders in my field but also learn alongside smart and passionate students. Current students and alumni all spoke extremely highly of their time at UNC and the department’s reputation for graduating talented, skilled and successful students is unparalleled. Finally, I loved the emphasis on collaboration within UNC and with the local and international community.

How did your opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows contribute to your decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill?

In speaking with current fellows, I realized that joining the Royster Society of Fellows would allow me to be part of another cohort of talented, passionate and innovative doctoral students, in parallel to my Health Behavior cohort. I am especially excited for the potential for interdisciplinary collaboration and engaging with the larger university community. Of course, I wouldn't have been able to attend such a prestigious university without the generous support of the Royster Fellowship.

Please describe your most meaningful undergraduate experience, including why the experience was meaningful.

My undergraduate coursework was extremely formative – I developed a critical framework with which to understand disparities and inequities regarding race, class, gender, sexuality, health, nationality, etc. This framework continues to influence my career, research and personal values. I am extremely grateful for the professors and graduate student instructors who helped me understand these complex issues and become a better version of myself.

Please describe a particularly meaningful experience or accomplishment in your life, including why the experience was meaningful.

For several years I volunteered as a rape crisis counselor supporting survivors of sexual violence and their families. The work was difficult but extremely rewarding. However, the stream of survivors seemed never-ending – moving me to focus on prevention. This launched my career in public health and violence prevention. I am pursuing my doctoral degree at UNC to continue my research in violence prevention with some of the leaders in the field!

Eric Trexler, Human movement science

  • Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Fellowship
  • UNC-Chapel Hill, master's degree in exercise and sport science (exercise physiology)
  • Ohio State University, bachelor's degree in exercise science education

Out of all of the academic institutions you were considering for your doctoral studies, why did you select UNC-Chapel Hill?

I chose to attend UNC for my master's degree, with the intention to complete my Ph.D. here, based almost entirely on the University’s stellar research reputation. While completing my master’s degree, I received excellent research training and mentorship, along with valuable coursework and practical experiences. The education I received at the master’s level reaffirmed my belief that UNC was the ideal place to pursue a Ph.D. and facilitate my academic development.

How did your opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows contribute to your decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill?

While I had already considered UNC an excellent choice for Ph.D. programs, the opportunity to join the Royster Society solidified its position as the top choice. Aside from the generous financial support offered, the Royster Society also provides a platform for interdisciplinary engagement, community outreach and faculty mentorship to fully support the well-rounded development of the students involved. It is a tremendous honor to join the Royster Society of Fellows, and an opportunity that I couldn’t imagine turning down.

Please describe your most meaningful undergraduate experience, including why the experience was meaningful.

My most meaningful undergraduate experience is probably the first seminar I gave outside of the classroom environment. In doing so, I found a passion for sharing my academic and research-based experiences with others, and sharing practical health-related information with various populations within the community. Soon after my first seminar, I worked to schedule more, and discovered a passion for translating current research findings to practical recommendations and sharing those recommendations with the community.

Please describe a particularly meaningful experience or accomplishment in your life, including why the experience was meaningful.

I come from a background in strength and conditioning, but had yet to find an avenue to apply those skills upon moving to North Carolina. About six months into my master’s degree program I got involved with the Special Olympics, volunteering as a strength coach for a local powerlifting team. Both coaches and athletes on our team face unique challenges, but the experience brings great joy to our athletes and is highly rewarding for our coaches. The success and enjoyment experienced by our athletes, along with the collective effort to overcome obstacles, have made the past two seasons incredibly meaningful, and I look forward to coaching this team in seasons to come as I pursue my doctoral degree.

Thelma Uzonyi, Speech and hearing sciences

  • William R. Kenan Jr. Fellowship
  • Henry Ford Hospital (Detroit), clinical fellowship
  • Vanderbilt University, master's degree in hearing and speech sciences
  • Florida State University, bachelor's degree (with honors) in communication science and disorders

Out of all of the academic institutions you were considering for your doctoral studies, why did you select UNC-Chapel Hill?

I considered UNC-Chapel Hill because it has a top-ranking SLP [speech-language pathology] program and is known for producing strong researchers from their SLP Ph.D. program. My final selection was based on my academic adviser, Betsy Crais, and the offer from the Royster Fellowship. Dr. Crais is the perfect match for my research interests, and she offers her students opportunities to do both joint and independent research. The Royster Fellowship allows me to pursue my Ph.D. without the financial burden. The Royster is also appealing because of its professional development and networking opportunities.

How did your opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows contribute to your decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill?

Although the UNC SLP Ph.D. program is an excellent fit for me, there was another school that I strongly considered due to personal ties and a well-known researcher who was to be my adviser. I presented the Royster offer to the other school, and even they were impressed by the comprehensive package and additional opportunities of the fellowship. In the end, I believe receiving the Royster was the tipping point for me in selecting UNC-Chapel Hill.

Please describe your most meaningful undergraduate experience, including why the experience was meaningful.

Although my undergraduate years were some time ago, I often think back to the summer I spent in Ghana. In 2007, after completing my junior year at Florida State University, I spent the summer volunteering in my native country of Ghana at New Horizons Special Needs School. Here, I was introduced to a wide variety of developmental disorders and the struggles of finding intervention methods to treat the schoolchildren. This experience inspired me to better understand developmental disorders and the methods available to provide intervention, thus sparking my research interest. I believe this experience was the turning point in how I viewed the field of speech-language pathology, a constant reminder of what we know in the field and what is still yet to be discovered. This reminder keeps me curious in my practice and drives me to look for new knowledge in intervention methods.

Please describe a particularly meaningful experience or accomplishment in your life, including why the experience was meaningful.

In my five years of practicing in the field of speech-language pathology, I believe my most meaningful position was in Boston Children’s Hospital Early Intervention Program (BCHEIP). Our clinical team truly embraced Family Centered Care and believed in the power of parent-child relationships in addressing developmental delays. Through this type of practice, I witnessed children making the most gains I had seen in my years of practice. From autism to Down syndrome to developmental language delays, it was clear that working through the Family Centered Model yielded the most successful results. I was able to aid children in saying their first words, eating their first full mixed-textured meal after a GI surgery, using joint attention with their parents for the first time, calling mama/dada for the first time and the list goes on. The skills I learned while at BCHEIP not only had a lasting impact with the families I supported, but will help guide my future research endeavors.

Michael Webster-Clark, Epidemiology

  • William R. Kenan Jr. Fellowship
  • Northeastern University, Pharm.D. degree and bachelor's degree in pharmacy studies

Out of all of the academic institutions you were considering for your doctoral studies, why did you select UNC-Chapel Hill?

Wonderful faculty and flexible program.

How did your opportunity to join the Royster Society of Fellows contribute to your decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill?

The Royster Society of Fellows really helped cement my decision to attend UNC-Chapel Hill rather than another institution. It provided both a financial foundation and an opportunity to integrate myself into the greater Graduate School program that the other programs I was accepted into simply could not match.

Please describe your most meaningful undergraduate experience, including why the experience was meaningful.

The most meaningful undergraduate experience I’ve had was probably working with one of Northeastern’s professors, Dr. Judith Barr, to create and submit a grant proposal to one of the first rounds of PCORI [Patient‑Centered Outcomes Research Institute] founding announcements. It was the first time I was really able to dive head-on into a developing area of research (medication adherence) and help coordinate the efforts of a dozen people throughout Northeastern University, each with their own focus and specialty. Dr. Barr was extremely supportive of my efforts and allowed me a great deal of influence over both the goals of the grant and the writing itself. I really felt like an equal, not just a student, and that meant a lot to me.

Please describe a particularly meaningful experience or accomplishment in your life, including why the experience was meaningful.

My most meaningful experiences came during my Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences coordinated through Northeastern’s program. The most memorable and meaningful one of them was probably working with an ambulatory care pharmacist at the Cambridge Health Alliance, one of the first times I really got to sit down with patients and try to help them understand and manage their health conditions. The fact that my preceptors trusted me enough to leave me alone with patients and the fact that patients trusted me to give them helpful health information really meant a lot to me, and I hope to continue to help those people on a much broader level through population-level research.